Learning the ups and downs of magic is a tragic operation. Last week and the one before, I was riding really high the two weeks previous on unequivocal sigil success coming to fruit, a pie-in-the-sky employer called me and named me the primary candidate and it seemed my LO was going to get into the school we wanted her to. I had been focusing specifically on Jupiter, with the thought that (possibly, I have no research) that by praying to one celestial spirit exclusively, it would hear me and respond in kind. It seemed to work, but, and correlation is not causation (or maybe it is in magic) but Jupiter did fall into retrograde and about that time the job fell through (the employer got squirrly and wanted me to expense a trip to California [I’m in the Midwest] for three half-hour interviews) and the teacher at the Waldorf School decided against taking our LO this year and asked us to re-enroll in September, leaving things right where they began and my head full of questions. Should I have grabbed that slim opportunity, wrecked my budget, and flew out to California for that job? I chose not to because the other sigiling for my daughter had come through, so I leaned on that, only to have it collapse. Magic is a bit of a paper dragon. Powerful and terrible, but if you push to hard, it crumples beneath your fingers.
I am sticking with my altar-free practice, however, because that seems to be working for me at the moment. I kneel after lighting incense and after twenty-years as a building mechanic, kneeling without a pad is already a huge sacrifice (maybe I should sigil for new knees…). I kneel and read the Clavicle of the Sun and the invocations to Jupiter from the Hygromanteia, Clavicula, and Book of Oberon and then, because my knees actually can’t take much more, I prostrate myself, head to ground, arms stretched to the East, and begin my personal petitioning of a handful of Saints and Jupiter again for good measure. The saints I’ve been attempting to communicate with, with the exception of Saint Cyprian, are ‘local’ to some degree, there is Saint Philomena and Saint Barbara, who have relics installed nearby along with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Francis who has a large monastery that I pass every day.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, while not passing any particular ‘feels’ my way, is really intriguing to me. This week, I found another gem at Half Price Books, ‘Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century’ by Richard Kieckheffer, and in the introduction, the following is mentioned:
“The numimous quality of a book of magic could resemble that of a liturgical or devotional book, and in some cases the distinction between a devotional and a magical work could be obscure. The chronicle of Saint Denis tells how in 1323 a monk of Morigny was found to posses a book of devotions inspired by curiosity and pride, although he claimed to have been inspired rather by visions of the Virgin Mary. In her honor, he had had many images of the Virgin painted on his pages. He thus sought to renew the ‘heresy and sorcery’ known as the ars notoria, which involves the used of special figures, contemplation of these figures amid prayer and fasting, and invocation of mysterious and presumably demonic names, all for the sake of knowledge, wealth, honor or pleasure.”
As the kids say, ‘Wait. What?’ An grimoire illuminated with the Blessed Virgin Mary? This immediately plugged a whole lot of existential holes I had in regards to mixing Saints and grimoiric magic. This monk, John of Morigny, was a straight up chaos magician in the 14th century, praying to the Virgin Mary for permission (which was presumably granted) to ‘work with’ the Ars Notoria. He was doing it in such a way, however, that it wasn’t a chaos mage knitting together of magical aesthetics but in a manner where the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presence was seamlessly integrated with ritual magic. In his own words:
“About my errors in the nefarious sciences and especially in the Ars Notoria, which is handed on by the devil. She told me all these things, the most potent queen of heaven, the glorious and undefiled mother of God, the virgin Mary, my friend and helper, most swift counselor and most sweet and true comforter. She told me to write for her praise and glory, to celebrate her in present and future times. But after I had the first vision described above, which is called the thema (to which as I said previously all the subsequent visions are connected mystically), I began to undertake the yoke of religion, setting out to serve as a soldier in the order of the blessed Benedict. About four years after my entry into the order, a certain book was passed on to me by a certain cleric in which there were contained many nefarious things of the necromantic art. I took a copy from it of as much as I could get, and after that I returned [it] to the cleric. I was noticed by the devil, and tempted, and blinded as the temptation prevailed, I began to think how I might be able to attain to the perfection of this nefarious science. I sought counsel about this from a certain Lombard medical expert named Jacob. When I had consulted with him, he said to me: “Get permission to use the school [studia], and when you have obtained it look for a certain book called the Ars Notoria, and in that way you will discover the truth not only about this knowledge, which you seek information of, but about all of the sciences.” And so I did this, and I finally got the book after seeking it for some time, and having got it I immediately set to the task of performing this work and obtaining its effect to the best of my ability.”
‘Get permission to use the school…’
He sought permission to work necromancy from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Stay tuned kids, I will be leaning heavily in this direction in my praxis this week. We will see if the Queen of Heaven is still in the business of handing out waivers for budding magicians.
Thankfully, there are never a shortage of metal bands that pull their aesthetic from Lovecraft, so I can usually kick off the imbrications section by hooking into a band that have picked up the name of the story I am working with. If their crap, I don’t bother, but this week, I’m happy to announce, that ‘The Lurking Fear,’ the band, decidely rocks. Check em out:
And then, to get us in the mood, join me in this video tour of one of the most Lovecraftian spots I’ve yet to see, the ruins of the Overlook Mountain Hotel in the Catskills Mountains, near Woodstock, NY.
And finally, I am super happy to have discovered the Maori band, Alien Weaponry. This track, translated as ‘The Trembling Earth’, is particularly relevant for the aesthetic built for us in The Lurking Fear, and, it freaking rocks:
Our Lovecraft tale for this week is The Lurking Fear, an early twentieth century romp through the haunted Catskills Mountains. The primary location for the tale is a deserted mountain atop the rather obviously named Tempest Mountain. Lovecraft links the area with Dutch settlers and, in a way, links the Dutch with the horrors that he finds there. I’m not sure I have much commentary here, other than with every story my thesis that Lovecraft wasn’t ‘actually’ a racist, gains a bit more clarity. I’m not sure how the Dutch were viewed by 1900s New England culture, but I’m guessing that those that adhere to the thesis that Lovecraft was an inveterate racist would have a difficult time plugging the Dutch into this view. According to our nameless narrator:
“The lurking fear dwelt in the shunned and deserted Martense mansion, which crowned the high but gradual eminence... For a hundred years the antique, grove-circled stone house had been the subject of stories… of a silent colossal creeping death which stalked abroad in summer.”
That creeping death had a particular form, also, which is revealed when it is stated:
“The ground under one of the squatters’ villages had caved in after a lightning stroke, destroying several of the malodorous shanties…”
Lightning strikes and thunderstorms are particularly Lovecraftian, especially the lightning strike bit. If one were to perform magic with a Lovecraftian aesthetic, this is a crucial component. As the classic grimoire, the Clavicula of Solomon, calls for clear dark skies for the spirits do not tolerate light or walking on earth out of view of the starts, the Lovecraftian spirits require storming skies and spring to life when the sky lights the earth on fire. Couple this with the much discussed aesthetic of the Tower and we are seeing a Cybele / Saint Barbara throughline for the practice of Lovecraftian magic.
August 5th, 1921 is our calendar date for the Lurking Fear. The best match for a location is the Overlook Mountain Hotel and nearby Kingston, NY. The Overlook Mountain Hotel isn’t an exact match, by any means, but the Lurking Fear has encoding that I wasn’t able to break in a week’s research. There are later mentions of a Cone Mountain and a Maple Hill, and there is a Maple Hill in the same area, so maybe I’ll disprove the designation of Overlook Mountain sometime in the future, but for now, with its obvious Steven Kingian throughlines to The Shining and the actual ruin of a mansion on the mountain itself, I think it is a good enough match for our aesthetic.
Our narrator brings two companions, whom he specifically names as George Bennet and William Tobey, to the spot to aid in an investigation driven by these thoughts:
“I believed that the thunder called the death-daemon out of some fearsome place; and be that daemon solid entity or vaporous pestilence, I meant to see it.”
These will become the first two martyrs of August 21st. The trio brilliantly decide on staying overnight in the ruined mansion and, during an accompanying lightning storm, our narrator recounts:
“The increasing thunder must have affected my dreams, for in the brief time I slept there came to me apocalyptic visions.”
I think it is safe to assume, at this point, that Apocalyptic and Horrific Dreams can be construed as direct evidence that a Lovecraftian Enchantment was successful. Nearly all protagonists to date in our critical reading have experienced them as a precedent to spirit contact.
Unsurprisingly, our narrator and his cohort are attacked, our guide being the only one left alive:
“That I am still alive and sane, is a marvel I cannot fathom. I cannot fathom it, for the shadow [shown on the chimney] was not that of… any human creature, but a blasphemous abnormality from hell’s nethermost craters; a nameless, shapeless abomination which no mind could fully grasp…”
Which is another instance of the un-anthropomorphic, of spirit forms with no shape and all shape, the same un-form we arrived at last week in The Darksome Place.
Following the untimely death of our first martyrs, the narrator of the tale seeks out a third, an ethnologist by the name of Arthur Monroe, who also finds his maker while on an expedition to another area of the mountain. While sheltering in a shack after investigating a graveyard and makeshift squatters hamlet, Monroe is found dead, having been killed right in front of the narrators eyes following sticking his head out of the shack and into the torrent of rain that accompanied a freak storm. His death, leads to wild speculation about the former owners of the mansion where the Lurking Fear is reported to originate from:
“I now believed that the lurking fear was… a wolf-fanged ghost that rode the midnight lightning… I believed… the ghost was that of Jan Martense, who died in 1762…”
Lovecraft here goes on an interesting diversion connecting Jan Martense with the Albany Convention and Leisler Rebellion, two early American engagements I had never heard of. He uses these politico-cultural upheavals as pretense for Jan Martens’s murder. Finding his grave, our narrator, possessed with the idea that the murderer of Arthur Monroe was some time of supernatural incarnation of Martens, begins to excavate his grave, until after some extensive digging, he falls into a subterranean chamber beneath the burial site:
“My slight fall had extinguished the lantern, but I produced an electric pocket lamp and viewed the small horizontal tunnel which led away indefinitely in both directions. It was amply large enough for a man to wriggle through; and though no sane person would have tried… I forgot danger… in my single-minded fever to unearth the lurking fear. Choosing the direction toward the house, I scrambled recklessly into the narrow burrow…”
The Lurking Fear is now a chthonic journey, with everything that implies.
Ultimately, it is found that our antagonist are none other than the same tribe of albino apes that we find in tales like old Arther Jerymyn’s and Lovecraft’s earliest published tale, The Beast in the Cave. These beasts are theorized to be spawned by:
“the frightful outcome of isolated spawning, multiplication, and cannibal nutrition…”
The cannibal nutrition is an odd trope that is also associated with the Ghouls of Pickman’s model, and something we will have to pick up on a bit later. The ‘white apes’ are a unique archetype that actually are connected with Thoth, in a way. From Hans Beiderman’s Dictionary of Symbolism we learn that:
“Thoth, the god of wisdom, though usually portrayed with the head of an Ibis, also apppears as an old, white caped baboon, sitting behind a scribe and overseeing his transcription of important texts… In Christian symbology the ape is seen negatively, as a caricature of the human and as an emblem for the vices of vanity… greed, and lechery.”
which fits with Lovecraft’s more legitimate anti-alcohol, pro-Prohibition stance.
Our tarot card for this week is the Two of Cups. This one was difficult to tie into this particular tale as it is a card that traditionally maps to the emotions of love and desire, which do not have a very prominent place in Lovecraft’s entire oeuvre. After some fairly thorough deconstruction, I think I found a match. On the Etteilla deck, there are two keywords, Love for upright and Desire for reversed. Love, derived from *leubh-, hypothetically, the source of PIE *leubh- is Sanskrit lobhaya-, which means ‘to make crazy’. Desire, which is hypothetically derived from the phrase de sidere, or ‘from the stars’. The keywords Amour and Desir on the Ettellia Two of Cups can mean ‘Something from the stars, that makes one crazy’, which is a good general match for Lovecraft’s universe. But what about some specifics?
Taking a look at the Sola-Busca Two of Cups,
we don’t find much that helps us latch on to the card. The only bit of tech that might plug in here is the shape of the cup, ostensibly a triangle, and how that shape is put together, or treated alchemically. For instance, from the following source:
“The alchemical/magical symbol for water is an inverted triangle, symbolizing downward flow. The downward pointing triangle is an ancient symbol of femininity, being a representation of female genitalia. One of the four alchemical elements, water has the properties cold and moist, and symbolizes intuition, the unconscious mind, and the enclosing, generating forces of the womb.
When paired with the fire triangle, or upward moving force, the Seal of Solomon is created. The water triangle is often represented by a chalice or cup; the symbol of water in tarot is the cup.”
Similarly, and more relevant, I think, is when the triangle points are facing, giving us an hourglass. The hourglass shape represents the divine and the terrestrial, The sky meeting the earth on a metaphysical place, which we have in The Lurking Fear. Every time that Jupiter’s bolts connect with Cybele’s flesh, the beasts rise from their chthonic journey and walk the earth.